Creating a greener world

20th of March 2017
Creating a greener world

Many sustainable companies set themselves long-term goals for reducing water and chemical use and minimising their environmental impact. We ask ‘green’ companies about their key sustainability targets - and how they aim to meet them.

Many companies claim to be sustainable via bold statements about reducing emissions, energy use, waste and environmental impact. But how many of them set themselves concrete targets for achieving these aims? And do they follow these up with published results?

Building services provider Facilicom sets itself rolling annual targets and currently intends to reduce paper use by five per cent and cut CO2 emissions by a similar figure according to director of development Lisa Sheppard. “We have a meeting at the beginning of each year to determine our annual sustainability targets,” she said. “Our continuous review policy ensures that these objectives are determined and that crucially, they are achieved.”

Facilicom calculates the carbon impact of every aspect of its operation. “By understanding and measuring this we are able to offset any environmental effects and return the entire cleaning process at our clients’ sites to a carbon neutral position,” said Sheppard.

“Each year we create improvements in our working practices that minimise - and in some cases, remove altogether - the carbon emissions we create. Over time this will bring our service to a more naturally neutral level.”

She believes long-term targets to be important. “There are no short-cuts to sustainability and we believe that long-term targets combined with regular reviews keep our commitments fresh in mind rather than being left to gather dust on a shelf somewhere,” she said.

Setting sustainability targets is a key function of any green organisation according to Ecolab’s marketing vice-president institutional Europe Bryan Maser.  “Setting goals - and measuring progress against those goals - is an effective way for companies to reduce risks, improve operations and protect the reputation both of their own organisation and the communities in which they operate,” he said.

Ecolab’s targets include the reduction of total water withdrawal by 25 per cent and a 10 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 based on a 2015 baseline. By 2030 the company also pledges to conserve 300 billion gallons of water annually by reducing consumption within its own and customer operations. “This will equal the annual drinking water needs of more than a billion people,” said Maser.

He claims the company has a track record of delivering on its targets. “In 2015 we helped customers to conserve 142 billion gallons of water; eliminate 26.4 million pounds of waste and save 10.5 trillion BTUs of energy,” he said.

Incremental reductions

“In 2015 we re-evaluated our footprint and adopted practices that will enable us to deliver greater efficiencies throughout our operations while meeting increasing demand. The results were incremental reductions in water and energy use across our manufacturing facilities.”

He claims that the targeted approach taken by Ecolab in 2015 had a measurable impact. “For example, switching to automated tank wash-out procedures in Slovenia saved the plant more than two million gallons of water which reduced total water consumption at the facility by 14 per cent,” he said.

“Moving to a closed loop cooling water system at a plant in the UK made this a ‘zero effluent’ plant and reduced water consumption and effluent discharge by 6.8 million gallons. And improvements to the steam trap and insulation at our plant in Nanjing, China led to a 560,000 kWh reduction in electricity use.”

The long-term sustainability plans of contract cleaning company Julius Rutherfoord include a 10 per cent reduction in its overall energy consumption. “This we will achieve, for example, by switching off PCs at the end of the day and via energy-efficient light and heating usage,” said operations director Chris Parkes.

“We will also achieve further reductions in our vehicle fleet’s CO2 emissions by introducing more dual-fuel, hybrid and low-emission vehicles. At the moment 90 per cent of our corporate vehicles are either electric petrol hybrids or LPG converted vehicles. We aim to increase this figure to cover the entire fleet in the next 15 years.”

The company aims to reduce its paper usage by 50 per cent during the same period. “This we will achieve by championing the use of paperless communications and via efficient paper usage such as double-sided printing,” said Parkes. “And our long-term goals also include maintaining our zero per cent waste-to-landfill policy.”

Julius Rutherfoord recycles 70 per cent of its waste and produces green energy with the remaining 30 per cent, according to Parkes. “We also offer sustainable waste management services for our clients,” he said. “We give them a certificate each year showing exactly how much recyclable waste they have produced and placing them in a bronze, silver or gold category. We then provide advice on how they can improve on this score.”

Parkes believes that long-term targets are vitally important - not just for his own company but for the entire cleaning supply chain. “We are part of an inter-linked network so it is important that our suppliers are also pursuing sustainability goals and setting long-term targets,” he said.

Distributor network Jangro operations director Joanne Gilliard agrees that long-term goals are essential, “However they are only effective if they are both realistic and regularly monitored,” she said. “Long-term plans such as reducing the volume of waste your company sends to landfill should be broken down into a set of smaller aims that work towards the end-goal.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day and companies need to take an organised and methodical approach to becoming more sustainable, tackling goals in the same professional way as they would approach any other key business aim.”

Jangro is committed to minimising the environmental impact of its business and of the entire cleaning industry supply chain. “We use a programme of continuous improvements that aim to meet and, where appropriate, exceed legislative requirements,” said Gilliard. “And we set our own standards where no regulations exist.

“We also aim to recycle packaging materials where possible and will reduce our CO2 emissions in the next 15 years through reduced fuel consumption and lower exhaust emissions in our delivery fleet. We intend to reduce our use of paper, water and energy in our offices and use environmentally safe and sustainable energy sources to meet the needs of all depots as well.”

Setting long-term targets is an indispensable part of the sustainability process according to machine manufacturer Hako’s occupational health and safety management officer Timo Laatzen. “We
constantly review our processes and measure their effects on the environment and on communities,” he said. “This enables us to identify weak points and highlight possible improvements.”

The company publishes an environmental brochure to show what Hako has achieved. “For competitive reasons, however, we refrain from publishing our self-imposed production targets,” he said. “While we think it makes sense to engender this kind of transparency we also have to ensure that the competitive advantages we have developed are not published prematurely. Internal targets should only be made public after we have met, validated and adequately protected them."

The company holds certificates for its environmental management and other systems, he adds. “Our quality, environmental and occupational health and safety management certification means we are obliged to keep setting ourselves new objectives which are verified and certified annually by external auditors,” said Laatzen.

Only a company that consistently pursues sustainability in all areas can create a credible green product according to Maresa Schmid, international communications and sustainability business development manager of cleaning agent specialist Werner and Mertz.

Long-term targets

“This means that a clear sustainability strategy with long-term targets is crucial,” she said. “We are convinced that an increasing number of consumers want to know the economic, social and environmental conditions under which their products are manufactured.”

Werner and Mertz concentrates its sustainability activities upon key areas such as water and resource conservation. “Detailed information on our initiatives and their successes are provided in our sustainability reports which we have issued since 2008,” she said.

The company’s Green Care Professional range uses natural ingredients such as rapeseed, linseed and olives. “A large number of these products have ecolabels and by 2020 we aim to have 50 per cent of our sales based on our Green Care Professional brand,” said Schmid.

Equipment producer IPC sets itself targets for reducing energy and detergent consumption every year. “Our running goal is to increase our electricity savings and maximise the use of recycled plastics without compromising the quality and efficiency of our products,” said communications manager Gabriella Bianco.

“We also aim to extend our Black is Green technology which we use to make trolleys and vacuums from superior recycled plastic.”

Long-term targets are important if a company is to stay challenging and innovative according to assistant product and brand marketeer of Greenspeed Floor Loos. The company’s key target is to reduce its impact on aquatic organisms.

“We want to keep surprising the market with high quality and sustainable concepts,” she said. “However short-term innovations are also important.”

Greenspeed manufactures microfibre products that carry the Nordic Ecolabel plus a Multi Daily cleaning detergent that bears the Gold Cradle-to-Cradle certificate. The company’s detergent bottles are made from 25 per cent recycled PE and 75 per cent green PE derived from sugar cane.

The company is constantly working towards a circular cleaning concept. “Our dream is not only to reduce any negative impacts - but also to have a positive effect both on the user and the environment,” said Loos.

Cleaning technologies provider Kärcher sets itself long-term targets based on the results of its stakeholder survey. “In order to know where we stand we collect indicators from our 24 production and logistics sites plus the group’s central divisions every year,” said head of sustainability management Andreas Mayer. “With that database we know exactly what we have to do to meet our targets.

“These goals are evaluated within the relevant departments to ensure that they are achievable. We know we are currently doing well but we still have a way to go to achieve all our aims.”

Kärcher’s 2020 targets cover 14 over-arching objectives and include a 20 per cent reduction of production-related energy consumption and turnover-related carbon dioxide emissions. “The energy-efficiency of our products is expected to increase by a further 10 per cent,” said Mayer. “Equally relevant for climate protection is to further increase the proportion of organic or recycled plastic materials in the production of our machines.”

Kärcher published its second sustainability report in 2016 setting outs its achievements to date and highlighting its 2020 goals. Mayer believes that sustainability communication is vital. “Everybody is talking about sustainability but it can be difficult for customers to ascertain which companies are actively improving their performance,” he said. “I strongly believe that an active and honest communication plays a very important role.”

And he adds that the setting of long-term goals is another crucial plank in any sustainability policy. “If you don’t have a clear road map it is almost impossible to continuously improve your company’s sustainability performance,” he said.


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